This article is written by Dr. Masarat Jilani, a junior doctor who is passionate about challenging stigma and empowering patients through media.
Our bladders are so important to help us get rid of waste and keep our bodies in balance. But it’s hard to know how to take care of them properly, especially when there can be lots of myths circulating. Luckily there's lots of evidence out there about ways to keep our bladders as healthy as possible. In this post, we'll also break down the myths about bladder care to ensure that you know the best ways to look after your bladder!
If you suffer with bladder leaks it can be tempting to limit your fluid intake- but don’t do this! Staying hydrated is important to allow your body to function properly and dehydration can lead to you becoming seriously unwell.
1) Ensure 1.5-2L of fluid intake every day – you may need more fluid on some days so follow your thirst impulses and drink whenever you feel thirsty.
You may have noticed your urine becomes darker when you drink less fluid and this can irritate your bladder. Water is the best fluid to hydrate with to keep your bladder healthy. The worst are fizzy drinks and caffeinated ones as these can be bladder irritants.
2) Avoid certain drinks - If you have problems with bladder leaks or an overactive bladder - research shows it may be an idea to switch to decaf for some of your coffees and teas and if you haven’t done this, we think it’s worth trying. Acidic drinks like grapefruit juice and alcohol can also irritate your bladder- you may find it useful to switch to eating whole fruits instead of juiced versions and reduce your alcohol intake.
Can cranberry juice prevent UTIs? It is commonly thought that cranberry juice may prevent UTIs but the latest studies show that although cranberry juice may possibly help some with recurrent UTIs – it needs to be taken in such large quantities that most people cannot maintain it. Cranberry juice is safe to drink regularly but, some forms do contain high amounts of sugar. So, if you drink cranberry juice purely for health reasons it may be time to swap to another drink which you enjoy more!
Constipation can increase the pressure on your bladder and make bladder leaks more common. Keeping hydrated will help prevent this but there are also other things you can do.
3) Eat foods rich in fibre - these include fruits and vegetables. Wheat bran and rye bread have also been proven to increase the frequency of bowel motions and make it easier to open your bowels.
Staying active is important to maintaining your overall health and it keeps the muscles in your abdomen and pelvis strong which boosts bladder health. Sometimes when you suffer with bladder leaks you may want to avoid physical activity. Don’t do this! Although tempting, adapting to allow yourself to exercise is key.
4) Follow the NHS guidelines for exercise - Do moderate exercise for 20 minutes a day - this includes brisk walking, dancing or riding a bike. If you do high intensity exercise like fast swimming, jogging uphill or aerobics then 75 minutes a week should be your target. With exercise- the more the better but, make sure you are not tiring yourself out and do a proper stretch and warm-up.
Pelvic floor exercises have been proven to help prevent future bladder leaks. The pelvic floor is all the muscles from the back passage to the muscles around your pubic area.
5) Do pelvic floor exercises every day! You should work towards achieving 10 repetitions for three sets a day. The simplest way to achieve this is to squeeze your muscles in this area. Do not stop and start when you are actively peeing since this can damage the bladder. But when you are resting or lying down it may be a good time to get squeezing! Imagine you are peeing and stop and start. Remember to rest in between and slowly build up to the three sets a day if you are a beginner. You can try the Squeezy app to help with these exercises!
6) Squat when you open your bowels- squatting has been found to be the best position to adopt when opening out bowels since it reduces pressure on the pelvic floor. The easiest way to achieve this is to try and get your knees above your hips when you are opening your bowels- placing a stool under your feet can be a simple way to achieve this. One product which might help is a Squatty Potty which has been designed for this purpose.
There are habits we can change or maintain in terms of our peeing habits which will promote long-term bladder health.
7) Don’t have a “just in case” pee - this is probably something we may all have done at some point such as peeing before we leave the house or before an exam. While on occasion, this may be needed to prevent a toilet break during an important event, do not make this a regular practice. This can make your bladder more sensitive and wrongly encourage your bladder to feel the urge to pee when you don’t need to.
8) Wipe from front to back - this one is for the females. When you are wiping yourself after you’ve peed or opened your bowels, wipe from front to back to prevent bacteria getting into contact with your urethra.
9) Pee after sex – both men and women should pee after intercourse to again prevent bacteria settling and causing an infection.
10) Don’t hold in your pee - Again this is probably something we all may have to do on some occasions when there isn’t a bathroom available
11) Empty your bladder fully when you pass urine - try and relax when you are peeing, if you are female it is best to sit down on the toilet and not to hover - we know, not easy to do in a public bathroom, right? But sitting down ensures you empty your bladder fully. It is advised that you move around a little after peeing before attempting to pee again to ensure your bladder is fully emptied. Not practical we know, so we suggest a rocking motion when you pee- as this helps some people ensure they fully empty their bladder.
Look after your mental health
12) Self care - Take care of yourself and do things to relax- anxiety can make bladder issues worse and there can be a lot of stigma around certain conditions as we discussed in our previous post. Take the time to look after yourself and practice self-love. You could try the Headspace app which offers some mindfulness techniques. (PSA: Headspace are offering one year for free if you are currently unemployed or furloughed as of July 2020)
13) Don’t be afraid to speak to your doctor about your bladder health if you have a problem - It can be daunting seeing the doctor about peeing problems but taking this step may help you regain confidence. Our last post on 'Why we need to talk about our bladders' has some tips on how to approach your first visit. You can also seek support in online forums. One online forum available is on Bladder Health UK and watch this space - at Provie we will be launching our own community groups soon!
14) Try different products - There are so many products available to help so there will probably be one out there which can help you! Think about the fit of the product, whether it is in a style which you will feel comfortable wearing and whether it functions well for you. And remember we are always here for you! You can also check out this post to see what’s available on prescription.
Drop us a comment below and let us know which of these #peehacks you've tried that works. If there are any that we've missed, share them with us and the rest of the Provie community so we can all take better care of our bladders!